In the last week the British news has been following the visitof the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, to Canada, culminating in their departure by float plane from Victoria, BC.
During my visit to Victoria, British Columbia, in April this year one thing I never got around to was to take a seaplane/floatplane trip to view Vancover Island from the air. Somehow the availability of aircraft and me never coincided.
I do regret the missed opportunity, and so the third in line to the throne has already experienced at the age of three something that I never achieved at the age of sixty-two. But from the photographs it appears that he did not relish te experience as much as I would have.
Day three of my trip to Victoria, British Columbia. Armed with photographs taken in 1943, some personal and some small purchased souvenir pictures, I set off with my camera around the city’s landmarks.
The first was obviously the Parliament Building.
In front of the Parliament Buildings is the War Memorial, seen here in 1943
and in 2016, with the addition of 1939-45 and 1950-53.
From there I moved on to Thunderbird Park, a small area filled with totem poles of what are now known as “First Nation” people, but which were in 1943 were referred to as Indians. The “Patrician” of April 1943 devoted several pages to the local Indian people, including these photographs of the totems:
My own photographs are shown below.
The large central picture it the oldest schoolhouse on the island which. along with the First Nation house, was not yet open for the tourist season. We have at home a wooden model of the “thunderbird” totem bought by my father. Checking the souvenir shops I found that all modern versions are cast in resin, which somehow did not make them worthwhile buying.
The final place on my town tour was the Crystal Gardens, which in 1943 was a swimming pool, but now is part of the Victoria Conference Centre. Again, I appear to have lost the 2016 photo, but here it is in 1943.
Having settled into my hotel I set out to explore the downtown area. I had with me copies of advertisements from “The Patrician”, the station magazine of RAF Patricia Bay, and I intended to seek out those establishments that were still active after nearly 75 years. As I was somewhat befuddled, it being around 2pm in Victoria but 10pm in “real time”, I restricted myself on day one to exploring Government Street. Of the dozen or so traders advertising in 1942, only three existed in their original premises.
One was W & J Wilson. I seem to have lost the photograph but this link is to their website.
The lady running the shop told me that when they had a clear out a couple of years ago they found dozens of RAF coats still in stock.
The second shop appeared to be practically unchanged.
This shop retains a traditional interior:
I took the opportunity to purchase a new pipe. When I was a lad my father had a meerschaum pipe with the bowl carved into the head of what we were allowed in those days to call an Indian chief, complete with feather headdress. I believe he bought it in Canada and in all likelihood from this shop. Alas, such things are not now available but this is my tribute pipe:
I have no idea how the business is still running because during the week I did not find a single place except the ferry terminal and the deck of the ferry itself where I could enjoy a pipe. Naturally the hotel was off limits, but so was the balcony. Signs on many shops proclaimed a bye-law banning smoking within 7 metres of any door, window or air inlet to the building. No smoking signs were prominent in the public parks and on the beaches and for obvious reasons in the forests.
Of course the Hudson’s Bay Company still exists but has been transformed into a multi-floor shopping Mall (The Bay Centre), with Hudson’s Bay Co. as a department store at one end of it.
One other establishment still running but in new premises was Brown’s Nurseries. More about them in a later posting.
Arriving in Victoria I checked into the hotel, the Best Western Inner Harbour. I had chosen this hotel partly because I have a loyalty card with this chain and mainly because it was within a short stroll of Victoria’s harbour and downtown area.
Entering my room I was surprised to find a fully fitted kitchen.
This was going to enhance my stay. I checked out the view from the balcony.
Not a very cheery view, until I focussed on this element:
Things were beginning to look better. I don’t know how Canadians do their shopping, but I later spotted that the parking limit at this shop was THREE MINUTES maximum!
I then discovered a second balcony with this view:
A pleasant little park and between the trees a glimpse of the harbour and the seaplane dock. The seaplanes proved to be a bit noisy at times, but in general added to the holiday experience. I was told by the harbour tour guide later that on the day of my arrival flights were suspended for some time due to “Whale on the landing strip”. That beats every other excuse for delayed transportation that I have heard in the past.
And so, unpacked and settled into my home for the week, I set out to explore the city.
Last week I visited Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada in search of my father.
As reference material I had his photograph album, luckily in the main annotated in his copperscript hand. As a backup I had the collection of his old RAF station magazines “The Patrician” from July 1942 to February 1944.
I flew to Vancouver Airport (My ideal would have been to cruise across the Atlantic and take the Canadian Pacific Railway to Vancouver, but alas it could not be achieved.)
This picture shows why, even on the approach, I could understand my father’s wish to return to live in this beautiful place after the War.